How CEO Rhonda Swan Built A 7 Figure Branding Agency While Navigating in a Male-Dominated World of Digital Marketing

“If you’re not considering building a business online or taking your current business online, you’ll be left in the dark.” – Steve Jobs

Rhonda Swan heard Jobs utter these words in an interview in 2004. She realized that the business world was quickly adapting to an internet age, and she needed to keep up with the times.

“I took this seriously and realized that if I stayed in a corporate job, I would never have the opportunity to raise a child and be the primary influence in her life,” Swan said.

At the time, Swan had a high-paying corporate job at GlaxoSmithKline, a Fortune 100 company. Her MBA and marketing expertise helped her land a job most others only dreamed of. Yet, her work didn’t allow her to live the life she wanted. 

Swan’s journey began by consulting marketing guru Perry Marshall. His simple philosophy was this: people aren’t looking to buy a drill, they’re looking for a hole. If you can find a way to sell people the hole, they’ll buy your drill.

Swan began learning about Google Ads to sell personal development products by utilizing keywords and search terms. She focused on products people use to create better lives for themselves.

She would capture leads off client websites, run google ads that sent them to calling an 800 number, and called them via Skype. Her method might sound unconventional, but this was long before social media and digital marketing lead generation became mainstream. 

During her calls, she would share the vision of working online and building a better future. She was selling the dream of working remotely and building a brand from a computer back when the idea was a radical one. 

After three months of not making online sales, she realized her old corporate sales tactics wouldn’t work in an online space. She turned to sales gurus like Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar for advice.

Swan learned how to connect her sales strategies with clients’ wants and needs. It wasn’t long until she was earning $37,000 a month – more than enough for her and her husband to quit their jobs and run the branding company full-time.

It was the only decision that made sense to her. She couldn’t work two jobs at once, so it was better to concentrate on the one that could make her dreams come true.

“I knew I had to focus if I wanted this business to come to life,” Swan said. “Follow one course until successful.”

The Power of Personal Branding

It’s the power of personal branding that helped Swan excel through tough times. She established credibility and customer loyalty while setting herself apart from competitors. 

The brand of you is the most powerful form of self-marketing out there. It’s more than just logos and colors — it’s you and your company’s defining feature. 

“You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop,” wrote Tom Peters in Fast Company. “To start thinking like your own favorite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?”

The most common way brands establish themselves is by using a feature-benefit, which tells customers what they’ll gain from using the brand’s products or services. For example, a computer might feature 16GB of RAM, resulting in the benefit of fast processing speed. A soda might feature less calories than competitors, benefitting the health-conscious consumer. 

Swan’s feature-benefit was that she could teach others about working from home by running an online business and building a brand with value by telling her story. She successfully transitioned from the corporate world to working at home and wanted to help others do the same. Her emphasis on remote working was something almost completely unheard of at the time and she hoped her idea would catch on quickly. 

You should also consider what feelings are associated with your brand identity. Look at McDonald’s for instance. It’s yellow and red logos, iconic golden arches, and “I’m lovin’ it” tagline all make the brand feel youthful and fun. Plus, McDonald’s has Happy Meals, PlayPlaces, and cartoon mascots — all of which appeal to children and drive home its brand identity.

The end goal of establishing a strong personal brand is influence power. This isn’t necessarily the kind of power that allows you to step over others and have them do your bidding. (In the words of Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility.) Rather, it’s power that reflects your status and reputation.

“If you were a scholar, you’d measure it by the number of times your publications get cited by other people,” wrote Peters. “If you were a consultant, you’d measure it by the number of CEOs who’ve got your business card in their Rolodexes.”

Consider figures like Oprah Winfrey, Stephen King, Kylie Jenner, Nick Jonas, Martin Scorsese, Venus Williams, or Dwayne Johnson. These people have enormous influence because they’re so popular and well-respected in their fields. 

They have massive star power and their name alone conjures feelings of awe and excitement. They’re the kinds of people who influence what movies their fans watch, what books they read, and what music they listen to. These are the kinds of people whom their fans aspire to be like. 

Perhaps there’s no better example of an entrepreneur turned into a personal brand than Gary Vaynerchuck, sometimes called Gary Vee for short. Vaynerchuck grew his personal brand while running an ecommerce winery. He launched WineLibraryTV on YouTube where he made a new episode almost daily for five years. His popularity helped him land spots on Conan O’Brien and Ellen DeGeneres.

In 2008, Vaynerchuck gave a keynote at Web 2.0, which eventually helped him land a $1M 10-book deal with HarperCollins. Then, he leveraged what he knew to launch a full-service media company called VaynerMedia.

Now, Vaynerchuck puts his name on everything he does. Some of his endeavors include publishing company VaynerX, a Q&A show called #AskGaryVee, The GaryVee Audio Experience podcast, and a vlog called DailyVee. Vaynerchuck is a multiple New York Times best-seller and highly sought after public speaker. That’s the power that comes with massive name recognition. 

Swan established her name in a similar manner. She was living the life most others wished they had. She was traveling the world with her family while regular people were stuck in their corporate offices. Swan’s influence power helped sell her lifestyle lessons to clients. 

Becoming Unstoppable

Then, the 2008 financial crisis struck, and the Swans lost most of their money. They’d invested quite a bit into developing a golf course. Unfortunately, the course never got built, and the Swans spent many months battling real estate fraud in court.

With only a few thousand left to their names, the Swans needed to make a big decision. Should they stay in San Diego to raise their daughter and go back to their old corporate jobs? It would mean sacrificing everything they worked so hard for.

However, the Swans realized they had something more powerful than their savings: a reliable business they could take anywhere in the world. So, they made another bold decision – they were going to travel the world.

Part of Swan’s motivation was that she had an online business that wasn’t bound to any location. She could keep making money even if she wasn’t in the U.S. So why should she stay?

The other reason was that she wanted to teach her one-year-old daughter through experiences. Of course, her daughter would still go to school, but travel gives people a one-of-a-kind teaching experience not found anywhere else.

The Unstoppable Branding Agency

The Swans’ business started as Swan Lifestyle, but later became the foundation of the Unstoppable Branding Agency – a P.R. company based on integrity, quality marketing, and developing branding assets that help clients present themselves as experts online.

Swan’s digital marketing techniques are more relevant now than ever before. The Unstoppable Branding Agency’s feature-benefit is that the company helps establish a customer’s credibility, therefore generating leads and sales. Swan makes superstars out of everyday entrepreneurs and experts, which radically help boost their business.

“We turn the world’s best-kept secrets into the world’s best-known experts,” said Swan.